I’m up to my eyes in work and haven’t time say very much today, other than this:
My blog is five years old today.
Tinman’s weekly attempt at the WordPress Photo Challenge….
He looked over the side. It really was a long way down.
He shuddered, and huddled down deeper in the nest.
“You’ll love it,” said his Mum. “It’s the most fun ever. Watch this.”
She plummeted out over the side, and his heart plummeted as he watched her. She arrowed down, down, then soared, scorching an almost visible U in the sky as she swept back to land gently beside him.
“I don’t know,” he said doubtfully. “Can’t I just walk around?”
“You’re a bird,” said his Mum. “We don’t walk.”
“Ostriches do,” he said desperately.
“Ostriches. Seriously? You’re picking as a role model a creature who sticks his entire head into sand. Can you imagine the state his nostrils must be in? He must sneeze cement-balls.”
“I still think I might be an ostrich. Perhaps I’m adopted.”
“You aren’t,” she said firmly. “I laid the egg that you came in, and that’s not an experience you forget in a hurry. Trust me on this.”
“What about penguins, then,” he said. “They don’t fly, but they slide along the ice, which looks like far more fun.”
“They eat nothing but fish, and walk like a man trying to hold in a fart,” said his Mum. “And they live in the coldest part of the world and can’t get out of there, whereas we can fly south for the winter. We don’t walk south, you’ll notice, we’d have to start in about March.”
“I still fancy the walking option,” he said.
“Suit yourself,” said his Mum. “Once you climb down the tree, you can walk where you like.”
“Oh,” he said.
“Exactly,” said his Mum. “When it comes to a list of things you can hold on to a tree-trunk by, wings rank somewhere between a spatula and the rubber bit at the bottom of a chair-leg.”
He still shook his head. “If God had wanted us to fly, he would have given us wings,” he said.
Mum raised one eyebrow.
“Ok, bad argument,” he said.
“Look,” she said softly. “I know you’re afraid. I was too when I was your age. But I watched lines of birds flying along in a V-formation. I heard the morning chorus of birds just thrilled to be alive. And I saw how envious humans are of us, and how they try to copy us, and I thought “it must be great”, so I tried it. Please, just come out and stand on the branch with me.”
She held his wing and he climbed from the nest, clinging to her as they stood side by side.
“Most fun ever?” he said.
“I promise,” she said. “Well, pooing on humans is the most fun ever, but it’s bad parenting for a mother to tell her son that.”
“Is it easy?” he asked.
She looked down at the branch they were standing on.
“As falling off a log,” she said.
He closed his eyes, really, really tightly, and leaned over sideways until gravity took him.
And dropped him. He shrieked as he fell, frantically stretching out his wings, trying to grab the tree, his Mum, anything.
And the stretched out wings flicked a feathered slap across gravity’s face, caught the air, and lifted him.
He shrieked again, this time in sheer delight, as he discovered the awesomeness of the gift that he had been given. He saw his Mum’s grin and wave as he shot past, like a child on a merry-go-round glimpsing a parent.
He stayed out until bedtime. He swooped and soared and dived. He flitted. He weaved in and out of trees like a fighter pilot in a Star Wars film. He bounced up and down on telephone wires, feeling the electricity thrum beneath his feet. He tested the saying “a bird never flew on one wing”, and found it to be untrue, though you do just fly in circles. For a while, a wonderful while, he just floated on an air-current, resting on the sky.
When his Mum called him for bed he was giddy with tiredness and excitement. He chattered about how wonderful everything was as she tucked him in under his grass duvet.
“Ostriches?” she said.
“Gobshites,” he replied.
I’m only getting around to Sidey’s Weekend Theme now, which was “manners”…
“…. and yes, your bum does look big in that,” said Josef.
Anke, sitting opposite him, smiled.
The tiny statelet of Etteket is in the Alps, unknown to almost everyone. It is an astonishingly beautiful country, with stunning views and carpet-soft ski-slopes, yet they have no tourist industry, because they don’t like to brag about themselves.
They are the best-mannered nation on the planet. Their motto is “nil utterum bono, nil utterum nil”, which roughly translates as “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all”.
You may think that living there would be paradise. The people of Etteket would tell you that you would be wrong, or rather they wouldn’t because that would be bad mannered.
And therein lies the problem. The people are polite, almost insanely so. They have been invaded during several wars, if invaded is the correct word to use about a nation who welcome you in with wide smiles, but the invaders usually leave out of boredom after a couple of years, beaten into submission by calm submission.
Their football team lose every game because their opponents have discovered that if they say “excuse me” the players will simply let them through with the ball.
If two Ettekettians ever arrive at a door at the same time, then neither goes through. They simply wave each other forward until one of them collapses from exhaustion.
There are no pub-arguments. There is no political debate. Their anti-drugs slogan is “just say ‘no, thank you’.”
And all of this eventually gets to you. It’s like living at a perpetual cocktail party, full of polite, meaningless conversation.
And so Anke founded Rude Health, a secret, hard-to-find club down a secret, hard-to-find alley, where people can please their inner urge not to please.
There is a farting room. There is a room where you can hit yourself on the thumb with a hammer, and swear long and loud. There is a driving-simulation game in which you can refuse to let cars coming out of side roads into the traffic. You can describe the weather as shite, rather than “not quite as pleasant as one would have hoped”. There are Simon Cowell outfits (a jet-black wig and nipple-high trousers), which you can wear while you tell imaginary contestants that they sound like an electric toothbrush trapped in a metal bucket. And, as we have seen, customers like Josef can tell a mannequin in jeans that yes, your bum does look big in that.
Oh, sorry, I realise looking back that I may have given the impression in the opening lines that Josef was addressing his comment to Anke.
There is, of course, no country on earth where a man would get away with that.
He was born ten days late. That sums him up, really.
Tinson2 is one of the most laid-back people on the planet.
He breezes happily thorough life, never seeming to get angry, or upset, or worried. We still sometimes call him “Smod”, which is short for “Smoddler”, which is short for “Smiley Toddler”, the world’s happiest two-year old.
Although I must admit that the smiling toddler followed the angry baby, a child who frankly scared us. Then Tingirl arrived, when he was just eighteen months old, and he became her protector, her comforter and her friend.
He didn’t learn to walk until he was two-and-a-half. He tried it one day, stood and took a couple of steps, then seemed to decide that, since sliding along our wooden floors on his bum was quicker, he wasn’t going to bother (couldn’t be arsed, in fact). It was only when his younger sister started her first tottering steps that he sighed almost audibly, and climbed finally to his feet.
He was the fussiest eater on the planet. He wouldn’t eat fruit, or meat. He wouldn’t drink what he referred to as “fizzery” drinks. He basically lived for the first ten years of his life on milk, and on unbuttered rolls with jam in them. We used to call them “jam-dogs”.
He has rewarded us for this bad parenting by growing taller than either of his siblings, and much taller than us.
He is eighteen today. He has been a lovely child, a happy youth, and from today I’m sure will be a great adult.
We love him and are proud of him. He’s just a super guy.
Happy birthday, Tinson2.
WordPress want me to write about the topic I normally blog about as if I were a music critic. What I mostly blog about is me…
Tinman’s opera Worth Doing Badly is a piece written in many movements. In other words he writes on the bus both to and from work.
It opens with a long solo of maybe six months, during which he performs unaccompanied. Over time he is joined by a small but wonderful chorus, from all over the world.
He makes extensive use of the organ, that organ being his heart, as during the oft repeated theme “mio busto metallica, repetione?” (“I have a pacemaker, have I mentioned that before?”). The percussion section is much to the fore here, as he keeps banging on and on about it.
The piece has many bold sections, never more so than during the aria “mi multi bradpittzi” (“I am a Stud Muffin”). The brass section is particularly evident here, mostly in his neck, and in the blowing of his own trumpet.
The part played throughout by the wind section cannot be underestimated.
The strings hold the whole thing together, though only barely. Some parts are “allegro”, meaning that he wrote them in a hurry. Most of the work is falsetto.
He keeps away from the very lowest part of the range. For example in this very piece here he has resisted the urge to use the word “flute”.
My enjoyment of the piece would have been improved by greater use of the Harp. Or possibly the Guinness. Any drink I could have got my hands on really.
I think that Tinman should attempt a ballet next.
If you want to see a load of balls, then he is definitely your man.
WordPress want me to go to a favourite blog and write a companion piece to its penultimate post. Since I don’t want to risk upsetting any of my blogmates (they write sadly about the death of their cat, I add a frivolous piece about cat heaven), I took the penultimate post on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed section this morning. They described the post as “What happens after you earn tenure? One professor explains” and without reading it, in case I made fun of it in any way, I simply wrote to the description…
It had taken many years, a lot of theses (by which I mean more than one thesis, not the use of the word “these” several times), tons of research and the heavy use of Wikipedia, but finally the board of Lake Snowdrop University, Idaho, had offered me a permanent position. It was like passing some sort of initiation, though without the hazing and being dumped naked on Interstate 53 (though that did in fact happen, but only because of a misunderstanding with a girl with some really protective brothers).
I, Professor Henry Walton Jones, Indiana to my friends, Junior to my Dad, that eejit in the hat to my students, was in as Professor of Archaeology. I went into the staff room that first morning, eager to mix with the finest academic minds in the state.
Or Not. The Professor of Media Studies was watching TV, which might have classified as work in his case had he not been watching Sesame Street. The Professor of Creative Creationism was drinking, although it was nine in the morning. Professor of Marine Psychology was asleep, or quite possibly dead.
“Ah, Jones,” said the Professor of Vital Statistics, “welcome. Here’s the key to your office, it’s on the fifth floor of the East Wing.”
I headed out of the door and up towards my room. As I started up the stairs I looked up in astonishment.
A giant round boulder was rolling down towards me.
I hurled myself to one side, crashing through a door. And found myself in the college football team’s cheerleaders’ changing room.
I fled in a hail of screams and hurled underwear, and continued my trip upstairs. Five yards further on I stood on a particular step, then ducked as a hail of poisoned darts shot from the wall. One of them plucked a bra from my hat and pinned it to a skull resting against the far wall, obviously that of a predecessor who had not been as lucky.
When I reached the next flight of steps the floor suddenly slid to one side. I coiled my whip around an overhead beam, and dangled from it above a pit full of snakes.
I hate snakes.
I managed to swing to safety. I climbed the last few flights of stairs, fought off a group of Nazis who had appeared from some reason, wrestled a mummy (her son had wanted my job), and tripped (by tripping on) a secret lever, causing a ray of light to shine into the corridor that horribly melted the head of the Head of Ancient Studies, who had apparently set all of the traps, as he had felt that my position would make his redundant.
As I approached my office a brick wall had sliding down to seal it shut, but I slid under it just before it closed. The room wasn’t big enough to swing a whip in, it was old and musty, and I hadn’t a clue how I was going to get out, but I smiled happily to myself.
In my time I had found the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom and the Crystal Skull, but now I had tenure.
It’s the Holy Grail of Academia.
WordPress ask us to “Craft a scene in which you meet an opposite version of yourself”….
I was sitting in a coffee shop, working on my blog, when a voice said “Are you writing a story?”
“No, I’m crafting a scene,” I said, a little proudly. “WordPress says so.”
“Your name’s Tinman, isn’t it?”
I looked up then, and felt somehow that I was looking at myself. I’m not sure how I felt that, I’m short, with brown hair and brown eyes, whereas the other person was tall, with blonde hair and sapphire-blue eyes.
And she was a girl.
We were both gorgeous, so we did at least have something in common.
“How did you know my name?” I asked.
“I sensed you as soon as I came in here,” she said. “You’re a regangleppod.”
I frowned. “Have you just insulted me in Welsh?” I asked.
“Look, let me explain,” she said. She sat down opposite me, then looked deep into my eyes. It felt oddly familiar, yet disturbing, as if we were soulmates but she had just punched me in the soul.
“It feels like looking into a mirror, doesn’t it?” she said. “And in a way it is, because just as a mirror shows everything backwards, you are the exact opposite of me. Apart from us both being gorgeous, of course, I don’t understand how that happened.”
She had a habit of flicking her hair back as she talked. I never do that, though it’s mainly because I don’t have enough hair.
“You know how they say that everyone has a doppelganger?” she continued, “Someone on the planet who is exactly the same as them? Well, everyone also has a regangleppod, someone their exact opposite. You and I are unkindred spirits, and I don’t mean that unkindly.”
“How do you know all of this stuff?” I said.
“I’m a Professor of String-Theory Physics at Trinity College,” she said.
“String Theory?” I said.
“Yes, it means that we’re all connected by a metaphysical piece of string,” she said.
“I see,” I said, “and you and I are one of those knots that you can’t undo without breaking a fingernail.”
“Exactly. And to answer your question, I knew that you’d be called Tinman, because my name is Namnit.”
“Er, that’s not a girl’s name you hear very often.”
“It means ‘brightest blossom on the flower of true enlightenment’ in Sanskrit,” she said. “And Tinman’s an odd name for a guy,” she said, “unless your parents were obsessed with Judy Garland.”
“No, I have it because I have a pacemaker in my chest,” I said.
“Well, I have fake boobs,” she said, “so perhaps we’re not quite as different as we thought.”
I stared at her. “A professor with fake boobs?”
She blushed. “I am still a woman,” she said. “And it’s so hard to get guys interested in you when your IQ is so much higher than theirs that they’d need snookers even to get it close.”
“I see your problem,” I said.
“And what do you work at?” she said, then clapped one hand to her mouth. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that. It obviously has to be something really mundane and unimportant.”
“I’m a firefighter,” I said defiantly.
She raised one eyebrow.
“Ok, I work in an office,” I mumbled.
We both smiled. “Do you know, it really has been nice to meet you, Tinman.”
“And you,” I said, holding out my hand.
“Oh, we can’t touch,” she said. “It would be like the sun touching a black hole. It would destroy the galaxy.”
“Oh,” I said. “Then there’s no point using my ’opposites attract’ chat-up line, I suppose.”
She smiled again, and stood up. “It would be safest if we left separately,” she said.
I watched her as she walked towards the door. She had fabulous legs with an astonishingly pert bum swaying gently above them.
“I know what you’re doing,” she said, without turning around, “and you should stop it. Since we’re basically each other in reverse, it’s like looking out of your own arse.”
WordPress’s prompt is called Freaky Friday, and says “Who would you like to have spend a day as you and what do you hope they’d learn from the experience?”
It was cold in the office that morning, colder than the heart of my ex-wife at my alimony hearing. The door opened and a guy walked in. I could tell just from looking at him that he was the sort of guy who was used to giving orders, by his expensive tie, his tailored suit, his shoes so shiny I could see up his trouser legs.
“Tinman?” he said.
“You’re lookin’ at him,” I said.
“I know,” he said. “You’ve been working here for seven years.”
That was probably another reason why I knew he was used to giving orders. It seems he was my boss.
At least he was today. I went to bed last night as just an ordinary private dick, and woke up this morning, as a blues singer would say, to find that I was someone else. Apparently it’s something called Freaky Friday, you get to be another person for a day. I’d been this Tinman guy for half the morning now, and I seemed to have a job more boring than a Jennifer Aniston movie, a mug that said “you don’t have to be crazy to work here – it’s just co-incidence that I am” and a desk drawer full of paper-clips instead of scotch.
It seems that I was still a dick.
“You gotta job for me?” I said.
“I need a report done,” he said.
I was a bit worried by this. My reports tend to be about cheating husbands, pilfering House-staff or people who claimed insurance because they were dead, while they were actually lap-dancing in Poland, or sometimes pole-dancing in Lapland. I didn’t think he’d be interested in any of these.
There was a second desk in the room. I nodded towards it.
“Couldn’t he do it?” I asked.
“Joe’s off,” he said. “Swimming with dolphins.”
That was enough. If people who messed with this guy ended up swimming with the fishes, then messing was not gonna be coming from me.
“You’ll have your report by lunchtime,” I said. “What’s it about?”
“I need to know the total expenses for the last quarter,” he said.
I brightened up quicker than a light-bulb in a, well, light-socket. If there’s one thing a private detective knows how to build a report about, it’s expenses.
I spent the morning putting down random figures for phone calls, for gas, for pills to cure gas. I put in flights to Dubrovnik, Dunedin and Dublin, even though we were in Dublin. I put in for meals for each employee, sometimes eleven in one day. I put in a bill for hiring a private detective (the real me) to vet new employees, and for a vet to vet the fish for the aquarium in the lobby. Finally I put in two hundred quid for the cost of printing the report (I actually just photocopied it) and left it on the boss’s desk.
I think he might shut the company down if he actually believes how expensive the report says it is to run.
As I left at lunchtime I walked out past the receptionist. She was a real doll. She had more curves than a Yankees pitcher in a game against the Red Sox, legs the length of the Lord Of The Rings box-set and a great pair of baps, which she was going to eat for her lunch.
“Hi, gorgeous,” I said.
“Get stuffed, Tinman,” she replied.
I got through an afternoon as dull as a sunny day in Tipperary, went to Tinman’s local on the way home, and drank something called Guinness. It doesn’t just beat scotch, it swings it round its head, throws it onto the ground and jumps on it. I’m never going to drink anything else.
And what did I learn from it all? Well, if you want to walk a mile in somebody’s shoes, try to make sure you both have the same size feet.
When I wake up tomorrow I’ll be back in my own life. I’ll be lied to by dames, beaten up by crooks, shot at by mistake.
I can’t wait.
Last night’s WordPress prompt was “You receive a call from an unexpected person. Who is it, and what is the conversation about? Go!”…
It was mid-afternoon in Ireland when my mobile rang. “Hello?” I said.
“Good morning, Jim,” said an American voice.
“Er, I’m not Jim,” I said.
“Not Jim Phelps?” said the voice.
“No,” I said.
“Of course not, Jim, obviously you can’t reveal your identity over the phone,” said the voice. “Anyway, the man you are looking at is Doctor Vaclav Baros.”
“I’m actually looking in the hall mirror,” I said, “so the man that I’m looking at is me.”
“Are you not looking at the photograph in the file?”
“No,” I said patiently, “because you’re talking to the wrong person.”
“Ok,” he said, “let’s pretend that. Anyway, the man you are not looking at is Doctor Vaclav Baros. He is a micro-scientist who is currently working in a large factory in Czechoslovakia. We are afraid that he might be developing a nuclear programme there. Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to go to Czechoslovakia, kidnap Doctor Baros, and bring him to the US where he will work for us.”
“There’s no such country as Czechoslovakia anymore,” I said.
“You mean their nuclear programme has met with disaster?” said the voice.
“No, I mean they’ve split -”
“- the atom?”
“Shut up and listen,” I said. “They’ve split into two separate countries – the Czech Republic and Slovakia.”
“Well, that is good news,” said the voice. “It’s a real pain in the arse having to type “Czechoslovakia” over and over again in your reports. When did this happen?”
“After the Berlin Wall came down,” I said.
“The Berlin Wall is gone?” he said. “Did you blow it up?”
“No.” I said.
“Of course, you have to disavow any knowledge of your actions,” said the voice.
“How come you don’t know any of this?” I said. “Don’t you have a diplomatic department?”
“Chinese walls,” said the voice. “None of our departments talk to each other. That’s why it’s called secret intelligence.”
“Have you even Googled this guy?” I said. “Because I just have, while I‘ve been talking to you. His Facebook page says he’s a micro-brewer, which makes more sense. The Czechs don’t produce bombs, they produce beer.”
“And women javelin-throwers the size of pandas,” he said.
“Not any more,” I said.
“Oh.” He sounded oddly disappointed. “Well, we still want Doctor Baros to come here.”
“He’s not a nuclear scientist,” I said.
“No, but he’s a brewer,” said the voice, “and our beer is shite. So, your mission, Jim, should you -”
“You seriously still want to go ahead with this?” I said. “You want me to fly to Prague -”
“Why Prague?” said the voice.
“It’s the capital of the Czech Republic,” I said patiently.
“Not Helsinki?” said the voice.
“Finland,” I said. “Anyway, you want me to fly to Prague, take the train to the town of Narnia (mean, I know, but he was asking for it) where the factory is, drive past security wearing a mask that looks exactly like Baros’s face, walk through the car-park and have no-one notice that I’ve apprnetly shrunk by about six inches, climb the outside of a really tall building hanging on by my toes and kitchen gloves, cut a hole in a window with a laser that I’d have to hold in my nostril, cross a floor dangling from a contraption like a baby-bouncer, knock out a man bigger than me, carry him somehow back down the outside of the building, presumably by holding him by the collar between my teeth, put him into the passenger seat, drive back out past security hoping that they won’t notice that there are now two identical men in the car, then smuggle him onto a plane in a case the size of a handbag, since that’s the largest luggage Ryanair will let you bring on these days.”
“Well, it’s not called Mission Impossible for nothing,” said the voice, a touch defensively.
“Why don’t you just offer him a job?” I said.
There was silence for a few seconds.
“Or,” said the voice slowly, “we could do that. Thank you, Jim, that’s an excellent plan.”
“You’re welcome,” I said. I hung up and walked back towards the TV. Then the house-phone rang. Just as I picked it up I could hear the beginnings of a soft hissing sound.
“Sorry,” said the voice. “I forgot the part where I say that your mobile will self-destruct in five seconds.”
“It would really have helped,” I said, through gritted teeth, “if you’d told me that before I put the phone into the front pocket of my trousers.”
Last night’s WordPress prompt was “why do you blog?”….
“So he’s back,” said Word Press.
“Who is?” asked his underling, Tag Category.
“Tinman,” snarled Press, spitting out the name as it was a mouthful of cod-liver oil. “The guy who spent all of last year slagging all of our daily prompts has just decided that he’s going to use them for the whole week no matter, and I quote, how daft they are.”
“Wow,” said Tag. “He must have really bad Writer’s Block.”
“You can’t get Writer’s Block,” said Press, “if you’re not a writer.”
“But he writes,” said Tag.
“He blogs,” said Press. “That’s not the same thing. It’s like saying that someone who flips burgers in McDonalds is a chef.”
Word Press did not like writers. He did not like literature. His parents, who did like literature, had called all of their children after literary characters – Heathcliff, Daisy, Holden, Jo, Atticus and Tarzan. By the time he came along they were too tired to think of another one, so they had called him Word, since that is in all literature, everywhere.
His middle name, which he had never told anyone, was Pagenumber.
It was his hatred of literature that had led him to form WordPress – a outlet for the masses to fill the internet with pictures of their budgies, news that their constipation was now cured and opinions about everything, including opinions.
In the vast oceans of dross thus created, he reckoned, works by Shakespeare and Dickens would sink unnoticed beneath the virtual waves.
And of all the bloggers in all the gin-joints in all the world, his pet hatred was Tinman, with his ludicrous stories about Batman and Dracula and Goldilocks.
And now Tinman had come crawling back. Word Press smiled.
“Put up the big one,” he said.
“Oh boss, no,” said Tag. “That’s just too cruel.”
“He asked for it,” said Press. “He called yesterday’s post “A Week Of WordPress, Day 1”. He can’t refuse to take this one on, after just one day, he’d look like an idiot. Sorry, more like an idiot.”
“But they’ll all get the same prompt,” said Tag.
“Well, of course they will,” said Press. “We can hardly personalise it – we can hardly say that today’s prompt is “seriously, Tinman, why do you bother?”.
“But it’s our Doomsday Prompt,” said Tag. “The Ultimate Question.”
It was true. The prompt “why do you blog?” would destroy blogging forever, as bloggers who tried to take on the prompt would quickly realise that there was only one answer – “I don’t know”.
“Yes, and can you imagine what he’ll write?” said Word Press. “He’ll never admit the truth. He’ll come out with some shite about trying to make people laugh. He’ll talk about his blogmates. He’ll slip in some mention of his blackouts and his derealisation – let’s face it, he’d manage to mention them if he was writing a post about hedgehog-farming. But no matter what he reason he gives he’s going to have to look into the very depths of his being, and realise that he’s a talentless twit with a pointless hobby. Even if only in his own soul, he’s going to have to expose himself, like a virtual flasher.”
Tag sighed, and clicked “Publish”. The prompt went out, and Word Press swore that he could almost hear the gasp of horror that crossed the whole virtual world.
He smiled grimly to himself.
“I’d like to see him try to make a story out of this one,” he said.